SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

Translation, Transmission and Manuscripts

Dr Michael Willis (British Museum), Matt Kimberley (British Library) and Prof Fabrizio Speziale (CNRS)

Date: 12 February 2019Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 12 February 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: S211

Type of Event: Workshop


This workshop will examine the twin processes of translation and transmission, with special focus on texts and manuscripts in the British Library. While translations of Buddhist works are documented from the early centuries CE by Chinese examples, and slightly later from Tibetan texts, close knowledge of the manuscripts and individuals involved are known best from later cases, notably the translations undertaken at the Mughal court in India. As with all such projects, close scrutiny of manuscripts, and what is recorded in them and about them historically, reveals much about the nature of the translation activity and the complex web of assumptions that have informed the creation of modern editions and studies.

Dr Michael Willis (British Museum), Translations and Histories: Persian Texts of the Mahābhāratain in the British Library

The Mahābhārata is India’s national epic, a massive text that took its present form in the fifth century CE. In 1582, the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605) commissioned a translation of the Mahābhāratafrom Sanskrit into Persian. While this was just one of several translations sponsored by the Mughal court, it was the most ambitious and occupied a team of Muslim and Hindu scholars until 1584. This paper will seek to discuss thenames of the scholars involved, the different views of the project at court and the nature of the Mahābhārataavailable in 1582, and how the text was treated by the editors of the Tehran edition.

Matt Kimberley (British Library) Medicine on the Silk Road: Khotanese sources for the transmission of Indian medical traditions

Khotan played a central role in the transmission of Buddhism from India to China and Tibet during the first millennium CE. In addition, Buddhism is cited frequently as the vehicle by which Indian medicine was transmitted to South, Central and East Asia. By examining the textual sources from Khotan – and Khotanese sources elsewhere in Central Asia – it may be possible to construct a partial history of the role that Khotan played in the spread of medical knowledge.

Prof Fabrizio Speziale (CNRS) Respondant


Registration is required of all participants.

Organiser: SOAS University of London

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7879 4892/3

Sponsor: European Research Council